Wednesday, 24 May, 2006

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity

When I was in the airport on Friday I picked up Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out The Shovel--Why Everything You Know Is Wrong, by John Stossel of ABC's 20/20.  What a great book!  In it, Stossel takes on many common myths to determine if they're at all true.  Usually, we find that "conventional wisdom" is bunk.

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity is a follow-up to Stossel's earlier Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media..., which I haven't yet read.

By now, just about everybody knows that the stories of people causing fires by using their cell phones at the gas pump are untrue.  There's not one documented case of such a thing happening.  How about the idea that we have less free time now than we used to?  Or that people are less happy today than they were in the past?  Does the lack of price limits on drugs help or hurt the poor?  Does the threat of lawsuits really make the world a safer place?  Is bottled water better than tap water?  His conclusions, which usually contradict the conventional wisdom, are backed up by good research.

His section on "Stupid Schools" is especially interesting to me because I think my exorbitant property taxes are being wasted on a pathetic school system.  If they're going to charge me that kind of money, they could at least give the kids a reasonable education.  Primary education isn't rocket science.

Some people will be put off by Stossel's decidedly Libertarian bent.  No, I'm not talking the modern anarchist Libertarians, but rather people who embrace the ideas of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith--people who believe that government has a small but legitimate role that does not include sticking its nose into my business or protecting me from myself, cradle to grave.

Regardless of his politics or yours, you have to admit that Stossel does a very good job of making his case.  But don't take my word for it.  Visit his Web site and see some of his articles and some of his news shows.  It's good reporting and food for thought.

Highly recommended.